Armour Formation
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Role and Influence of Armour


The SA Army Armour Formation is a professional, loyal, well-trained force, ready to serve South Africa.


The SA Army Armour Formation provides combat ready forces to Chief of the SA National Defence Force and specialist advise on Armour related matters in sustaining a credible Armour System for the SA National Defence Force.


The SA Army Armour Formation is mandated by the Chief of the SA Army to provide the armour component of the landward defence capability. This capability needs to be a combat-ready user systems (US) including 1st and 2nd line support. The following functional responsibilities are derived from the mandate:

The armour component of the landward defence capability must be combat ready and cost effective.

The continuous care and equity improvement of the processes, people, information, equipment and facilities of the SA Army Armour Formation must be reflected in the SA plan.

The main focus of the SA Army Armour Formation is on preparing the armour force (structuring, equipping, facilities and doctrine).

Combat ready armour forces will be provided to Chief of the SA National Defence Force / Chief Joint Operations for force employment in a specific mission.

Role and Influence of Armour

Armour, together with infantry, forms the decisive combat arms in the landward defence capability. A key component of modern armies is main battle tanks (MBTs) and other armour systems. Main Battle Tanks are as synonymous with landward operations as battle ships and submarines are with maritime operations, and fighter aircraft are with aerial operations. Main battle tanks are neither designed, nor intended, to win the hearts and minds of people, but even so are perfectly suitable for deployment in military operations other than war (MOOTW). All modern armies accept that Main Battle Tanks are essential conduct peace support operations (PSO) successfully. Main battle tanks provide comfort and protection to own forces in operations and ensure strategic deterrence. It is envisaged that main battle tanks will form part of modern, and less modern, armies for at least the nexts three decades before they will be replaced by future combat systems. Armour forces will always conduct their missions integrated with other elements as part of the balanced, combined arms team.

Armour.    Armour is about mobile, protected firepower. The purpose is to out-manoeuvre, out-fight and out-last ("out-live") the opponent. Armour's niche is based on platforms, sensors and armaments, combining/integrating man and machine in combat vehicles where the core of the mission is carried out on board (mounted) across the ground surface of the earth.

Role of Armour.    The role of the SA Armoured Corps is to provide the crux of the credible deterrence potential of the SA National Defence Force. Armour elements provide the firepower, manoeuvre and shock effect required to rapidly destroy the opponent's centre of gravity. Only armour can ensure swift and decisive victory under modern and future conditions. Armour is the basic manoeuvre element of all mobile conventional operations.

Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW)

Although Armour forces are primarily structured and trained to conduct conventional operations, they are inherently a multi-role force. The collateral value of armour in Operations Other Than War could never be ignored. In this regard the inherent characteristics of armour provide stability, comfort to the population, show of force and deterrence of belligerent activities. Armour forces are extremely versatile and deployable in all types with or without main equipment in any conceivable role.

Presently there is a world tendency to have more firepower and protection during Peace Support Operations, during post conflict and reconstruction operations and during stabilisation operations. Recent history of conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Chechnya, Kosovo, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo bear testimony of this principle.

Tanks are more frequently used in Military Operations Other Than War and Peace Support Operations and furthermore most conflicts and clashes happen in urban, built-up terrain. The Arab Spring Uprising in Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Lebanon also illustrated this and confirmed the very important role of tanks as security measures, particularly in urban areas and cities.

The South African Armour Capability is thus a crucial element of the SADC Brigade and the African Standby Force although at present no Armour capabilities are pledged to these forces.


The establishment and designation of the South African Armoured Corps (SAAC) as unit of the South African Permanent Force was, however, proclaimed shortly after the Second World War in Government Gazette No 3716 of 18 October 1946. The history of Armour in South Africa, however, dates back much further.

Armour and the principle of firepower, mobility and shock effect, dates back to the cacalry that once was the decisive arm of battle. Cavalry was introduced to South Africa by the British forces before the turn of the previous century. The principle of mounted operations was used by the British forces and, although on a far more informal scale, also used extensively by the Boer forces during the Anglo-Boer war of 1899 to 1902.

The first real Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFv's) were introduced to Southern Africa by the Royal Naval Air Service when they used armoured cars to support South African forces in capturing German South West Africa (Namibia) in 1915. After the First World War the South African Government acquired a single Whippet Tank from Britian and used it to control the 1922 Witwatersrand Strike. In February 1922 two Crossley Armoured cars were also acquired.

During the severe economic depression of 1933, the government established the Special Service Battalion (SSB) on 1 May 1933 as a job opportunities and social upliftment project. The Springbok was first used as symbol for this unit until it was changed to the national flower - the Protea - in July 1934, which is still today. Today 1 Special Service Battalion is still our oldest and proudest Regular Armoured Car Regiment.

The School of Armour was established on 1 April 1966 and adopted these SA Armour Corps colours and the proteas in their insignia and emblems. The SA Army started using stable-belts in 1983 and the SA Army Armour Corps adopted the colours of the beret flash for the belt. On 24 July 1996, the Chief of the SA National Defence Force approved the colours (and flag) for the SA Armour Corps as orange over blue, divided by silver/white. On its 50th anniversary in 1996 the SA Army Armour Corps officially adiopted the mailed fist emblem with Protea s the corps symbol to clearly distinguish it from the Special Service Battalion emblem adopted and used since 1946.

Armour Museum History

The idea of instituting a Museum and Research Library for the South African Armoured Corps started as early as 1994 and was officially approved by the Chief of the SA Army on 12 October 1995. Approval for the use of a historical building located in the lines of the School of Armour, Tempe was granted in April 1995. Unfortunately, no funds were approved for the museum, although the Department of Public Works restored the building. A number of fund raising projects were launched and with donations from various private business and arms manufacturers, funds were raised to manufacture a number of showcases and other items. An appeal to all members of the Armoured Corps and other interested persons resulted in a number of different items being donated to the museum. With great success and with the assistance of personnel from the School of Armour, the museum was officially opened by the Chief of the Army on 13 September 1996 to coincide with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the South African Armoured Corps.

To date, the museum has gone from strength to strength accumulating vast quantities of various items of interest and the collection of numerous armoured tracked, wheeled and other vehicles.

The historical building dates back to the years 1902 - 1904 and stands on historical grounds in Tempe, the farm on which British occupying forces were garrisoned after the occupation of Bloemfontein on 14 March 1900.

The large British Garrison (soldiers and families) soon had a need for a military hospital. Between 1902 and 1904, three large pre-fabricated wood and corrugated zinc buildings were erected for this purpose. Accompanying these hospital wards were pre-fabricated administration blocks and nurses-quarters. The hospital also cared for women and children of the concentration camps, (Anglo Boer war 1899 -1902). These concentration camps were adjacent to this area. The British Garrison used the hospital complex until 1912 - 1913. After the establishment of the SA Union Defence Force in 1910, the hospital was declared a Military Medical Service Training Facility in 1912. The hospital also functioned as a military hospital until it was closed in October 1921. In 1923, the facilities were sold to the Bloemfontein City Council for the price of £17 500,00 and were then used as an isolation hospital during several epidemics, such as the polio epidemics of 1934 and 1943. During the 1943 epidemic, the first Iron Lung was introduced to a hospital in South Africa to treat patients with lung conditions. In 1966, the hospital started scaling down and early 1967 the now disbanded 2nd Armoured Car Regiment moved in to occupy the area and buildings. During the same year, the School of Armour took over from 2nd Armoured Car Regiment and in 1970 the final historical building was taken over by the School of Armour.

In 1985, some of the buildings from that era were demolished to make way for new buildings for the School of Armour. In 1995, the historical building was restored to its present condition. On 5 February 1999, this historical building was declared a national monument. To date, the building houses indoor displays of the SA Armour Museum, an auditorium and a functional hall.

Adjacent to and part of the museum is the research library, which specialises in the gathering of information, documents, periodicals, books, etc with emphasis on armour warfare and equipment. The library also accumulates information on personnel, vehicles and archive books of the South African Armour Corps in particular. The library is in possession of a vast quantity of books, periodicals, documents, etc for research purposes. This library also responds to requests from around the world concerning equipment and history of the South African Armour Corps.

"Hull-Down" was officially opened on 2 September 1999 by Brig Gen Fido Smit (Honorary Colonel 1 Special Service Battalion) and houses additional equipment and training aids that cannot be housed in the museum building due to limited space.

Within the lines of the School of Armour and 1 South African Tank Regiment, some sixty plus armoured, tracked and wheeled vehicles are displayed. Other equipment such as guns, radar, mine rollers and ploughs are also displayed.

"Lesakeng" (the Corral for old Horses) houses numerous armoured, tracked and wheeled and other vehicles, mainly runners. The total structure as it stands to date was developed and constructed with donations from private funds, and good friends of the museum. "Lesakeng" was officially opened on 30 March 2001. The enclosure is an ongoing process, as funds become available with the final goal of laying a concrete floor.

Customs and Traditions

The Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu once said: "The supreme excellence is not to man a hundred victories in a hundred battles. The supreme excellence is to subdue the armies of your enemies without even having to fight them ". This excellence can only be expected from a well-motivated army with real character; character that derives from a prominent, well-established culture.

Customs and traditions form the cornerstone of the culture of any particular group. Culture, I believe, is the cement for building the future of society. Military culture, a subculture of society at large, which is practised in a disciplined environment, is based upon, inter alia, pride in the uniform, emblems and insignia, and particular customs and traditions. A unique military culture is in the process of development in the South African National Defence Force, and in the South African Army in particular.

The South African Armoured Corps has a history of just more than half a century. Members of the South African Armour Corps, past and present, take pride in this illustrious history. It has been a remarkable period in the annals of the South African Army. The Armoured Corps has produced leaders and soldiers of exceptional quality in this relatively short period of time. These men and women were, and still are, all committed to the upholding of their Armour traditions, thus forming the special bond that exists within the Corps.

Although a more specific culture has emerged over the years through the active participation of the Part-time Component in the activities of the South African National Defence Force, and this culture has also been projected in the South African Armour Corps through its Reserve Force Units, the South African Armour Corps traditions only gained momentum in the early 1990. The then command cadre at the School of Armour created an environment in which customs and traditions were exercised frequently and executed with the necessary pomp, dignity and ceremony. I hereby pay tribute to those leaders of the School of Armour who gave form to the customs and traditions and also to those who are now taking the unselfish task upon themselves to record these traditions and thereby preserving it for future South African Armour generations.

This commendable effort also coincides with the early years of building on and creating a new military culture subsequent to the formation of our new South African National Defence Force. Tradition is certainly an important building block in the creation of our distinct Armour culture. It should therefore be all-inclusive. It should be accepted by all and practised by all. The Armour again takes the lead in building bridges based on sound and healthy human relations.

I express the wish that the traditions of the Armoured Corps, as recorded in this booklet, will continue to serve as a force multiplier in building relations and living the culture. It is, without doubt, a morale booster in our endeavours to prepare the force, an excellent force, for whatever future challenge.

Symbolism: The Flame of the Armour

The Flame of the Armour symbolises the inextinguishable spirit and energy of the South African Army Armoured Corps.

The flame reminds us of the following qualities:

  • Energy - in that it emanates heat and inner strength.
  • Light - in that it changes insecurity into certainty and confidence.
  • Life - in that it is constantly in motion.
  • Purity - in that it separates, cleanses and refines.
  • Unity - in that it confirms our dependency, for alone we can achieve nothing.

The Flame also reminds us of the fire within every Armour soldier that enables him or her to deliver extraordinary performance and achievements. Irrespective of the enemy, we will advance and go forward with the flame in our hearts.

The Flame also reminds us of the destructive firepower that the Armour can concentrate on the enemies of our country, in order to ensure peace and stability.

The Flame of the Armour also embraces the national torch of tolerance symbolising that outwardly we are people of many colours, many races, many cultures, many languages, many religions and many origins, yet we are all tied to one another by a million visible and invisible threads that make us share a common destiny from which none of us can escape!

The Flame of the Armour inspires members of the South African Army Armoured Corps to stand firm and proud - faithful to God, our country and our task.

Faithful, true and steady - come what may, we are ready.

Symbolism, South African Army Formation Badge

The SA Army Armour Formation badge (51mm H x 34mm W) of chromium-plated white metal was introduced for use by the South African Army Armoured Corps on 1 October 1996 during the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Corps. This badge is the first distinctive badge for the SA Army Armoured Corps since its establishment on 18 October 1946.

From the establishment, all SA Army Armoured Corps Regular Force members, except recruits, wore the chromium-plated white metal badge of the Special Service Battalion. This badge was worn until 1963. In 1963, the Special Service Battalion's badge was adopted for use by the SA Army Armoured Corps but the letters "SSB/SDB" were replaced with the letters "SAAC/SAPK".

The mailed fist placed centrally in the laurel wreath derives from the legend of the iron fist of the German mercenary Gots Von Berlichingen. Gots (of the iron hand) Von Berlichingen (circa 1 500) was a German mercenary who lost an arm during one of his numerous battle campaigns. To continue as a mercenary, he had an arm made of iron. He wore this arm in battle, which terrified the enemy. Got's arm is believed to be displayed in a museum in Jagsthausen, Germany.

The mailed fist therefore symbolises physical force and aggression, typical to armour actions.

The laurel wreath surrounding the mailed fist symbolises glory and honour. A King Protea, the national flower of South Africa, closes the laurel wreath at its top ends.

The motto "PECTO SICUT FERRO" (With a Chest of Steel) is inscribed on a scroll below the mailed fist and wreath.

Replicas of the Armour badge, which are a smaller version (40mm H x 27mm W), are worn as collar badges on the service-dress jacket and miniature versions on the mess dress jacket.

The badge was officially approved by the Chief of the SA Army, Lieutenant General R. Otto, in October 1996 and is worn by all SA Army Armour Corps Regular Force members not attached to an armoured unit.

The Tanker's Prayer

I pray Thee, Heavenly Father,
Please hear this tanker's prayer
And send an Angel to me
For my tank and crew to care.

Be with us for we need
And lend a helping hand,
And carry safely our machine
Across this barren land.

Please keep our tank from running dry
When we face the foe in fight
And place our gunner's cross hairs
On the tank that comes in sight.

Please keep our radios in shape
And our comms working right.
Be with us when we kneel and pray
Ride with us day and night.

Please our ammo coming,
Help us ring our freedom's bell.
But above all, Heavenly Father,
See us do our duty well.

And if we fall in combat,
In the mist of morning grey,
We ask Thee, Heavenly Father,
Take our pain and sorrow away.

We ask Thee, Heavenly Father,
Take the pain and sorrow away.


The Armour Song

When icy winds blow your way,
In scorching heat of a summer’s day
When winds of storm howl round your ears
And rain is pouring down like tears,
We’ll still stand proud, still stand tall,
Faithful to God, our land, our all.

Armour man, still be true,
Other do rely on you,
Ever proud, ever strong,
That’s the oath we pledge: “Ever be true”.

Artillery shots disturb the night.
Forward still our engines fight.
And we pray: “Come day, come light”.
The struggle fought, the battle won,
We are respected, as team, as one!

Armour man, still be true,
Other do rely on you,
Ever proud, ever strong,
That’s the oath we pledge: “Ever be true”.

And when the winds of change do come,
When stormy clouds block out the sun.
Lord, when time comes for me to go,
Let others see, please let them know
I die with pride, true to my call –
Faithful to God, my land, my all.

Armour man, still be true,
Other do rely on you,
Ever proud, ever strong,
That’s the oath we pledge: “Ever be true”.